Drone strikes could cause more damage to planes than birds, study says


A Federal Aviation Administration study found small drones could potentially cause more damage to an aircraft than a bird strike, researchers say.

The FAA’s Alliance for System Safety of UAS through Research Excellence – also known as ASSURE— worked with researchers across the country on the study.

The research found heavier, stiffer components, such as a drone motor, battery or a camera, could cause more structural damage to an aircraft than birds of the same weight and size, said Kiran D’Souza, an Ohio State University assistant professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering.

Researchers investigated what would happen if a drone hit the body of an aircraft or was ingested into an aircraft engine, D’Souza said in an interview with this news outlet.

The experiments were a mixture of computer simulations and lab tests, he said. For example, at the University of Dayton Research Institute, parts of drones were fired into aluminum panels to simulate an aircraft, he said.

RELATED: Hypersonic research could lead to future spy drone

The study showed the need to develop sense and avoidance technology to avoid mid-air collisions, D’Souza said.

OSU and ASSURE members Mississippi State University, Montana State University and Wichita State University were the primary researchers on the study.

While the effect of bird strikes on airplanes is well documented, little is known about the effects of small unmanned drones with stronger materials hitting aircraft, according to Marty Rodgers, ASSURE director and a Mississippi State researcher.

“The results of this work are critical to the safety of commercial air travel here in the United States and around the world,” he said in a statement.

Researchers evaluated the potential impact of drones weighing 2.7 pounds to 8 pounds on a single-aisle commercial jet and on a business jet, according to OSU.

“Even small unmanned aircraft systems can do significant damage to engines,” D’Souza said in a statement.

In future tests, researchers will focus on collisions with private planes, helicopters and commercial turbofan engines, ASSURE said.

RELATED: Air Force continues to address shortage of aircraft maintainers

Studies were expected to continue through 2021.

While the research studied the potential for damage to an aircraft, it did not estimate the probability of a collision between an unmanned drone and a plane, D’Souza said.

The FAA has reported a rising number of pilot sightings of small drones as the popularity of the small unmanned vehicles has soared.

Drone users are required to operate by altitude and space restrictions.



Reader Comments ...


Next Up in Business

GM to unveil Springfield-built truck in March
GM to unveil Springfield-built truck in March

Chevrolet will unveil a new medium-duty Silverado truck that will be built at Navistar’s Springfield plant at an auto industry show in Indianapolis this spring. The Springfield plant has long been preparing for the joint venture with GM to build medium-duty trucks. Those trucks will be available in both the International and GM brands, and will...
Spectrum reports TV streaming app service issues
Spectrum reports TV streaming app service issues

Spectrum customers are reporting service interruptions while attempting to use the Spectrum TV app, the company said on Friday afternoon. “Spectrum customers are experiencing a service interruption while attempting to use the Spectrum TV App. This is causing errors including incorrect login information. Technicians are working diligently to restore...
Amazon raises monthly Prime membership rate
Amazon raises monthly Prime membership rate

The monthly membership fee for Amazon Prime rose Friday from $10.99 to $12.99. Company officials said the annual membership will remain at $99 dollars. Monthly customers do not get access to Amazon Video, which costs $8.99 a month. The last Prime subscription hike came in 2014, when Amazon increased its yearly membership from $79 to $99. The e-commerce...
Starbucks testing out stores that do not accept cash
Starbucks testing out stores that do not accept cash

Starbucks is testing out a cashless checkout in stores nationwide. As of Tuesday, one downtown Seattle store accepts only cards or mobile payments, according to a report from KIRO-7. The coffee chain is receiving mixed reviews from customers, some who like the convenience while others worry about privacy issues. Robert Safian, editor of Fast Company...
Top tips for selling your old stuff on eBay (and actually making cash)
Top tips for selling your old stuff on eBay (and actually making cash)

Too much clutter, too little money, too many gifts you didn't like... an eBay auction is one of the simplest solutions to all three issues. If your trash might be someone else's treasure, an eBay business is simple to start and accessible to just about anyone. "It has low start-up costs and it can be started out of your home," noted the ...
More Stories